Purchasing A New Tank? How To Properly Cycle Your Tank Before Adding Fish

Posted on: 14 October 2016

A great deal of people, especially those new to the fish keeping hobby, believe that it's perfectly fine to add a large number of fish to an aquarium after it's been set up a day or so. However, this is not the case at all. If you don't want to kill a slew of fish because of a condition called "new tank syndrome," you have to cycle your tank. The cycling process can take up to 2 months. Establishing a healthy aquarium is not a quick process. Following is how to properly cycle your tank before adding fish. 

Fish or Fishless Cycling

In the hobby, there are two main ways of cycling a tank. The first involves using one or two starter fish that will introduce ammonia to start the cycle. In this method, it is understood that the fish will probably die. Because it is cruel to the starter fish who suffer unnecessarily, many conscientious hobbyists do what is called fishless cycling. In this process, ammonia is added to the tank by adding drops of liquid ammonia or by introducing something that will decay and produce ammonia. This could be anything from a piece of shrimp to ordinary fish food.

The Nitrogen Cycle

To cycle a tank and make it healthy for fish, you have to establish the nitrogen cycle within the tank. Before you start the process, you should fully set up your tank and purchase an aquarium test kit that tests for ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. While you're waiting for your tank to cycle, add a little bit of ammonia to the tank each day. You also have to test your water with the test kit each day. 

Cycling a tank is something like a science experiment. You will test the water and record the results each day. So what are you looking for? You're looking for evidence that your tank has grown the bacteria that will safely remove ammonia and waste produced by your fish once you get them. 

When you first start testing, you will notice that the ammonia keeps raising unchecked. Eventually though, you will see a dip in ammonia and a rise in nitrites, the bacteria that breaks down ammonia. Since nitrites are harmful to your fish, you have to wait for one more type of bacteria to grow. This bacteria will eliminate the nitrites. When your tank is fully cycled, your test will show 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, and the presence of nitrates. 

After you get the readings mentioned above, it's safe to add fish. However, you can't add a whole bunch of fish right away. Add a few fish at a time, and wait a couple of weeks for the tank to balance out the amount of bacteria necessary to keep them alive. For more information, contact companies like Neptune's Tropical Fish.